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Every 30 days, we award the Top User Reviewer with a little prize. This month Jenson USA pitched in a $100 gift card! Vital MTB member Arkstorm spent some considerable time reviewing his bike, and we'd like to highlight the review that helped earned him the Top Reviewer spot.


GT Sensor 9R Expert Bike - "Without burying the lead, I will start by saying that I consider GT to be an iconic bicycle brand and I have ridden many GT's in the past including my first mountain bike, a 1993 GT Tequesta. I wanted to love the Sensor 9r so badly but after about three weeks and 15 rides I ended up returning it. Here's why:

On paper the Sensor 9r Expert seems like a good value with Fox's Float CTD shock, RockShox Recon Gold fork and Formula RX brakes.

One thing I noted from the moment I climbed on the bike is that at 5'10" with a 30" inseam, the size Medium frame (which is the smallest size available) lacks adequate stand-over clearance. But once in the saddle, the geometry of the bike feels ok. I was assured that the lack of stand-over clearance would be a non-issue (turns out that was very wrong).

First ride impressions was that the bike climbs surprisingly well for a 30 lbs. trail bike, even on techy climbs with lots of roots and large step-ups. The hydro-formed tubing seems to provide a reasonably stiff frame and the i-drive system works as advertised with very minimal bobbing, though on longer sustained climbs I locked out the CTD shock. All this comes with one major caveat: this bike likes to track straight. The 29" wheels provide excellent roll-over capability but the very long wheelbase (more about this later) makes quick turns to avoid obstacles or improve your line very difficult. Net result is that I would end up straight lining many tech sections that I would normally weave through on my 26er and the results were mixed. If the 29" wheels were able to roll over an obstacle then great. If not, I was usually unable to flick the bike up and over like I would my 26" wheeled bike.

When the climb ended and the trail turned to downhill the slack head tube angle and active (though not plush) suspension of the Sensor 9r is confidence inspiring. Unfortunately, that confidence is very short lived due to the RockShox Recon Gold's stanchions having an uncomfortable amount of lateral play and very choppy travel. At first blush, I thought the play might be coming from the head-set, but upon closer inspection all the play was, in fact, coming from the fork arms, not the head.

As during the climb, if the downhill section is straight and does not require any serious maneuvering, the Sensor 9r is fine. It also feels balanced launching small bumps. However, on more technical sections or through tight twisty turns where there is a premium on acceleration, the length of the bike coupled with the loose and shaky front end leaves one wanting.

All-in-all I think the GT Sensor 9r is a small dark spot in GT's otherwise sterling catalog. Even the 26" wheeled version seems much more in its element. The 9r sort of feels like you're wearing shoes that are three sizes too big. However, the 2014 model looks like a very serious improvement and given my feelings about the 9r not really feeling right, I think it's interesting that GT is reincarnating the Sensor line as a 27.5" only model."

Big congrats to Arkstorm! Thanks for helping out the riding scene with your thoughts on this ride.

Want to be in the running for next month's award? Start reviewing the parts you use in the Vital MTB Product Guide and keep an eye on the Top Reviewer leaderboard. We'll announce the next winner in early October.

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